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Friday, 6 July 2018

Guest Post from fellow author J.D. Estrada

#SkyThought on sharing the lessons of life.

Today, I'm sharing a guest post from my fellow author and friend J.D. Estrada. He has written at least ten books, and I'm a huge fan of his poetry and especially of one of his first books "Between the Tides" . He has created Estrada Crates to be able to connect with readers in a cool way. It seems to be the style here lately for boxes of goodies like FabFitFun or CauseBox for women and even some glam bags like from Ipsy. But what about a box of books, I mean crate of books, of your choosing from the author? Read more about his Estrada Crates and please like his page J.D.Estrada.

J.D. with his Estrada Crate

For a LONG time, I’ve wanted to connect directly with readers. That’s why I’ve done book signings, events where I present my work and even play music and gone to the  Puerto Rico Comic Con numerous years. But still, I’ve always wanted to have a direct connection with people that can’t make it to an event. So 2018 is the year where I try something different and present Estrada Crates.

I’ve mentioned before that if you want to get my books, one of your best options is Libros 787 and that is still very much the case. One of the reasons is that anyone who makes an order through their website gets a free eBook copy of any of my books just for supporting a Puerto Rican business. I might add that this is a permanent offer because these people run a good business, support local talent, and they offer a lot of hope to people back home who are wondering how to keep moving forwards after Hurricane María. That said, I also wanted to offer something different. In short, if you want to pick up some books and are in a rush, Libros 787 is your go-to place. If you want something different and aren’t in much of a rush, then read below.

I am a big fan of people who adopt a DIY ethos in regards to their goals and dreams. People who come to mind include Pearl Jam and especially Fugazi, a band who did things on their terms, and charged super cheap tickets even if they were one of the best bands of their time or any time. So I got to thinking and being a part of BookTube, unboxings have always been a fascinating thing to watch for me. People coming into contact with a little box full of surprises, the happiness when something catches their attention and having that direct connection thanks to a personalized detail. Since this is a pilot version, I will only take a limited amount of orders and do ask for patience in case I need to put in an order for more books (a “problem” I wouldn’t mind having :D).

That said, the effort is limited to the US, Puerto Rico, and other US territories due to shipping costs and me seeing how I can handle international orders. My idea is to not charge additional tax or shipping and simply charge a flat rate where everything is included. I like things tidy like that and miss the days where you paid a fixed amount for something. In regards to International shipping, I’m still trying to decipher options because doing a test run, the cost to ship all my books internationally is about $50… just for shipping. Not happy about that but I will continue to look for options to send signed copies of my work. In the meantime, if you’re in Puerto Rico, mainland US or anywhere where reasonable USPS shipping costs are honored, here are the options I’m offering. I’ll close up with the HOW you can get your own Estrada Crate.

“Testing the waters” Poetry Crate - $20

-       2 signed and dedicated poetry collections of your choosing
-       1 original Post-it Poem
-       1 Personalized Letter

“Lyrical Likeness” Crate - $30
-       4 signed and dedicated poetry collections
-       1 Original Post-it Poem
-       1 Personalized Letter

“Well versed” Poetry Crate - $50
-       All 6 released poetry collections, signed and dedicated
-       2 original Post-It poems
-       1 Personalized Letter

“More Human than Human Crate” - $50
-       Copies of both Only Human and Shadow of a Human signed and dedicated
-       1 signed and dedicated poetry collection
-       2 original Post-It poems
-       1 Personalized Letter

“Bilingual” Crate - $50
-       1 English poetry collection
-       1 Spanish poetry collection
-       1 copy of Twenty Veinte (Bilingual Collection)
-       2 Post-It Poems (1 English – 1 Spanish)
-       1 Personalized Letter

“Estrada Sampler” Crate - $70

-       Copy of Only Human, signed and dedicated
-       Copy of 1 poetry collection, signed and dedicated
-       Copy of Twenty Veinte, first bilingual collection, signed and dedicated bilingually
-       Copy of The Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore signed and dedicated
-       1 Post-it Poem
-       1 Personalized Letter

“The Kitchen Sink” Crate - $100
-       All 10 of my published works signed and dedicated
-       5 Post-it Poems
-       Overview of upcoming works
-       1 Personalized Letter


1.     Contact me via DM on Twitter or Facebook
2.    Get your parents’ permission if you’re not 18 years or older
3.    Have a PayPal account or ATH Móvil
4.    Order

Btw, in regards to the box itself, I’ll be doing my best to use old boxes that either I or other people don’t use in my efforts to promote recycling. If it gets to the point where this can be a more continuous thing, I’ll be looking into options where my efforts make the smallest impact on the environment possible.

Thanks for your time and if you do order an Estrada Crate, I’d love for you to do an unboxing, and share your experience.

Peace, love, and maki rolls


My chat with Amanda Hoven Havelin...Actor, Playwright, and so much more!

One of my latest interviews is with Amanda Hoven Havelin of Dalton, Georgia. She's an actress, director, and her most recent talent to have graced the stage at Dalton Little Theatre earlier this year was her play "The End of the World As I Know It." We talked about the joys and challenges of directing. Find out what her favorite play that she has acted in so far, and what or who inspired her to write her play.

Soon, you'll be able to see her perform again on stage in "Steel Magnolias" playing M'Lynn written by Robert Harling and directed by Ron Houston. It'll be performed at Northwest Whitfield High School on August 17 and 18 at 7PM and as well as a Sunday matinee on August 19 at 2PM. All proceeds will go to the Carol Braden Houston Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

Introducing Amanda...

What do you love about your life right now?

I love that I’m learning that I do not have to accept things the way they are. I’m learning that it’s ok to do what is right for me.

You’ve been acting a few years now in Dalton at Artistic Civic Theatre and Dalton Little Theatre as well as in Chattanooga. Have you acted anywhere else before?

No, I have primarily acted at Dalton Little Theatre. I was in my first musical a couple of seasons ago at Artistic Civic Theatre. And I portrayed Big Mama in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” last season at Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga.  When the timing and roles are right, I plan to audition for other theatre companies in our region. 

Was there anybody or a play or show that inspired you to act?

I had been around the theatre for a few years providing makeup services. I found it all very exciting. Each show I worked on or attended sparked more interest in being on stage, so I decided to audition. Jeff Adair cast me in my first show, “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” as one of the Papa’s Recipe-peddling Baldwin sisters. 

Do you think about the audience when you’re on stage?

Not usually. Only if something happens out of the ordinary, such as a prop failing.

Is it possible that you have a favorite play that you’ve acted in?

Yes, that would be “August: Osage County.”  It is an emotionally exhausting play.  I was cast as Barbara Fordham, which is the most challenging role I’ve undertaken. I would do it again and again.  

As well as acting and directing, you’ve written your first play, “The End of the World As I Know It.” What inspired you to write it?

I had started a few plays but had never finished one. So at the end of the  2016- 2017 season, I set a goal to write a play to submit for consideration in DLT’s night of one-acts that they produce each year. You could say that my inspiration was a fast-approaching deadline.

What are some of the challenges with directing?

Casting is the biggest challenge. Either you don’t get enough actors auditioning or you get a lot of actors auditioning and have to make the hard choices and cut people. Either way can be very difficult. 

And what are the joys of directing?

There are so many! Working with such a talented cast and seeing the characters develop is my favorite.  We should all be recording rehearsals so we can show our actors the growth and character development that we witness. It’s exhilarating!

How hard was it to also star in your play as well?

I didn’t originally intend to act in it. The actress in the role of Carol had been balancing the play and a difficult personal matter. At the start of tech week, it was taking too great a toll on her, so I stepped into the role. The fortunate thing is that I wrote the lines and created the character, so it was easier than I expected it to be. 

Do you enjoy acting or directing more?

Acting. It’s a thrilling experience. You get to be someone else for a while. You get to observe situations from a new perspective; you learn how your own life experiences relate to the roles you play - sometimes in completely shocking ways. You can be in the middle of a scene and suddenly you’re angry or you’re crying or you’re elated.  And it just happens organically - your character’s experiences tap subconsciously into your real life experiences. You make connections you were not aware existed until the moment the emotion surfaces. It’s very cathartic. 

In the past, you’ve done makeup for plays. Where did you learn the skills and do you still do makeup on occasion?

I’m mostly self-taught. When I was doing makeup full-time, I took a few classes and watched lots of tutorials. The last major project I undertook was as the Lead Stylist for Makeup and Hair for “Shrek the Musical” with Closed Door Entertainment. The show was performed at The Tivoli in Chattanooga. It was an amazing experience. Now I typically only help out with makeup or wigs for a show I’m in if the director or actors need assistance. 

Is there anyone you look up to in the entertainment industry?

Of course, yes, there are so many. Everyone, myself included, loves Meryl Streep, but my favorite actress is Frances McDormand. From the moment I saw her in “Fargo,” I knew she was an actress for the ages. And now, 30 years later, she’s still challenging Hollywood stereotypes with “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” When she accepted the Academy Award for best actress in “Fargo,” she said she is a proponent of “allowing directors to make autonomous casting decisions based on qualifications and not just market value.” She is determined to not be changed by the industry, but rather the industry accepts there is a wide variety of actresses and compelling roles out there for them.

Meryl Streep said, “I think the best role models for women and girls are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.” Do you agree and what would you add to that?

I absolutely agree. This perfectly illustrates what was discussed in the prior question and answer.  We have an obligation to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to society as a whole, to be our authentic selves. We cannot sit idly by and allow our friends and our children to be taught that to be “enough” they must fit into some predetermined mold.  When they see us living and loving ourselves as we are, then they have the courage to do the same.   

Do you believe that films and plays can impact the world to do better and make a positive impact? If so, what film did that for you?

Yes, I believe that all forms of art can have a positive impact.  “Schindler’s List” is a beautiful example of positively impacting the world.  It illustrates that one person can make a lasting difference.

Tell me three fun facts about you.

Umm. Hmm. Fun facts?  Okay.
1.      I love sheep. I fell absolutely in love with them when I spent some time in Wales in 1988. They were everywhere. 
2.      I love to sing karaoke. I’m not the best singer, but that doesn’t stop me.
3.      I used to body paint models for events. 

I share motivational quotes with my readers.  Do you have one you can share?

Anytime I’m asked this, the first thing that comes to mind is a Tyler Perry/Madea quote. I usually paraphrase it to “It ain’t about what they call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.”  But the full quote is “Honey, folks are gonna talk about you ’til the day you die, and ain’t nothing you can do. Let folks talk! It ain’t about what they call you … it’s what you answer to.”  Truly words to live by. 

Where do you see yourself in a year?

Acting and writing...I don’t yet know where or what. But that’s the plan.  

What makes a woman beautiful?

Her heart and her wit

If there is one thing in the world you could change, what would that be?

I would remove greed from the world. That would change a lot of things. 

In one word, describe yourself.

HAH! Reminds me of Celia in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Rosalind tells her to answer her in one word. Celia responds “You must borrow me Gargantua’s mouth first. ‘Tis a word too great for any mouth of this age’s size.” A person can’t be accurately described in a single word.

 A wonderful interview with a very talented and beautiful lady! Soon, you'll be able to see her perform on stage in "Steel Magnolias" as M'Lynn with five other women from the surrounding area including yours truly as Clairee.  The full cast is  Sierra Holcomb as Shelby, Jennifer Bryant as Truvy, Sabrina Akers as Annelle, Vicky Quinn as Ouiser,  Amanda as M'Lynn, and myself as Clairee. The play is directed by Ron Houston and Jim Lansing. It'll be performed at Northwest Whitfield High School in on August 17 and 18 at 7PM and as well as a Sunday matinee on August 19 at 2PM. All proceeds will go to the Carol Braden Houston Memorial Scholarship Fund. 
If you would like to attend the performance, please click here for more information on ticket prices and where to buy them. 
Thank you!

Big Mama in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Emma Staples (better known as Mamie Baldwin on the tv series “The Waltons”) in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Forever Love...A Short Story

I've had it in my plans as a writer to publish novellas (book series) about a government agency. It's been on my back burner for over three years, and I've finally decided to definitely finish the first one.
Below is a sample of type of story that will be part of my book series:  "Watson County: Every Deputy Has a Story". There's a lot I would like to add to this post with an even more in depth story, but I'm waiting until the first book is out. This is just the beginning of a series on the lives of Watson County where you'll be a part of the journey of a rural Sheriff's Office with drama, love, scandals, two faced politics, loyalty to the badge and family, and courageous men and women wearing a badge that is often disrespected because of some of their actions as well as fellow officers. It's a story that once is out that I hope you'll follow. 
Enjoy the teaser!

I remember the first day we met. It seems like just yesterday that we met, and I can see the hallways at Clifton High with all the silver lockers and the scent of Lysol that hung in the air because Ms. Renee (janitor) was determined to keep us from getting sick. You were leaning against your locker, and I thought you were so cocky with your letterman jacket. Well, you were so cocky! Not only were you the vice-president of our class but the quarterback of the team too. You were very driven even in school.  I liked that, but I didn’t like you at first. You seemed like a know-it-all. 

You looked at me from your locker and winked, and I almost failed over from laughter thinking such a lame move from this popular guy named Sam. I mean why didn’t you just come up and talk to me? But later you did because you asked me out five times over the course of couple of weeks. 

I finally gave in and said yes cause you were so damn cute with those dark eyes. But do you know what it was that got me to say yes? When you showed me that you cared. I had just got back to school from being out of town attending Shelby's funeral (my best friend from back home). A drunk driver killed her while she was on her way home from cheerleading. I was still crushed and couldn’t stop crying, and you came up to me at my locker, and touched my shoulder and looked me in the eyes and said “Rachel, look at me. I’m here, you can talk to me. I’ll listen or just cry on my shoulder. I'll hold you up." From that day on you did just that, you held me up with your words and actions as my friend.

I think I cried for five minutes before I could pull myself together. You gave me a hug and said if I needed anything that you would be there for me. You cared and acted on it. The next day at school, you brought me a card. Of course, I cried again. I never forgot that act of kindness, and I didn’t. You asked me out for the sixth time a couple of weeks later, and I said yes.
That yes was just the beginning of us: Sam and Rachel.

Fast forward to our college years, and we couldn’t imagine a life without each other. You finally proposed to me in our senior year. Do you remember bending on one knee on the football field with everyone from the college looking on? Our parents were there in the stands too! I was in just jeans and a T-shirt. And that was the best YES of my life. We had a beautiful wedding with our closest friends and family at Cathedral of Praise. We had so much celebrating afterwards and then that night we made love all night or so it seemed. Forever love was just starting, and it started off with a bang. 

Then two years, we moved into our very first home that we bought together. By then you were a detective with the local Sheriff’s Office, and I was teaching second grade. We couldn’t be happier. I was so proud of you with everything that you accomplished from being a deputy to detective. You worked hard and earned it. 

Today, I’m going through so many memories with you right now. I miss you. I wrote this last night and wanted to share this with you.

 I had to write something about you Sam and that was about our love and how I just want to see you. I'm still haunted with the memory of Sheriff Jenkins coming to my school with Chaplin Hill. I was called to the front office, and they were waiting on me. I looked at them and just knew, but I didn't know what exactly.  I just knew you were gone.  They sat me down and told me that you died in a car crash on your way to investigate a missing child's case. 

A drunk driver killed you. Just like my friend Shelby, but you couldn't hold me and tell me everything was going to be OK. You weren't there to whisper in my ear and tell me that it was fine for me to cry until I was spent. That it was fine for me to lean on you for strength. I couldn't feel your arms around me. You weren't there because you were gone. It's been three months which seems like eternity without you.

You were taken from me and our baby. Yes, Sam, we are expecting. I found out a month after the funeral. I couldn't believe my ears when the doctor confirmed it. She was conceived the night before what I call: the worst day of my life. So, I'm laying on our favorite blanket in front of your grave to tell you that you are going to be the father. I just found out today that we're having a baby girl. I couldn't wait to tell you.

She's never going to get to meet you, but she will know who you are. She will know that you were the kindest man who ever walked the earth, and she will know that you had a big heart who cared and volunteered with Boy Scouts. She'll  know that you were an only child who wanted a house full of kids and also know that you were loved and still loved by me. Most of all, I want her to know that without our forever love that she wouldn't be here. It was our love that created her.

I hope she has your dark eyes and your kind heart. I hope she has your height because being short can be challenging. I hope that she has your sense of humor and quick wit. If you were here, you would tell me she's going to have my curly blonde hair, but babe dark hair always is dominant. Do you remember how we use to daydream about our child together? You would tease me that no matter what sex of the child we would have that they'll know how to dance for sure because of my years of dancing at recitals, and that they would be sassy. You always called me "Sassy".

Sam, I'm still broken and miss all of you today. I also wanted you to know I'm naming her after you. I'm naming her Sammie Lynn.  Well, you know I can't her Samuel. Smile. You know that's funny.

I'll be here next week and again I'm going to talk to you. I know that maybe you can't  hear me, but I have to believe that you're looking down and that you're listening. Until next time Sam....my forever love.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Chat with Roxzane T. Mims...Atlanta Actor, Director and So Much More!

My latest interview is with Roxzane T. Mims. She was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her mother was an opera singer who chose to raise her baby daughters, rather than pursue a demanding career that would require her to leave them for two years. Her love of acting started watching her mother rehearse and perform in just about every community theatre production in town. She followed suit with school plays and the local theater. Eventually expanding to local commercials. She later moved to Atlanta and has been active in the acting community since 1989.  She has been in various roles on television from “Greenleaf”,  “Being Mary Jane”, “Star” to films “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn” with Sidney Poitier as well as starring in the film “Mosaic” which can be viewed on Amazon.

Introducing Roxzane... 

What do you love about your life right now?
That I’m finally beginning to feel like a “working” actor instead of “I hope this happens for me”.  Don’t get me wrong, I
have a lot more I want to do and a lot more work to do to get there. But at my age, I finally see real hope that it could happen.

Are you fearless in going after your dreams?

I wish I could say yes to fearless, but even if fear rears its ugly head, I’m still going for it. “God has not given us a spirit of fear...” I hold on to that.

 If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?

Directing or singing I can do both pretty well.
Or I’d be pretty miserable in some job and doing Community Theater, so I don’t kill someone. That’s kind of a joke.

 Was there a particular actor or film that inspired you to act?

Truthfully, my Mother in “Madam Butterfly” and in “Raisin in the Sun”; both productions brought professionals in from New York, and she killed it.  

Roxzane in "My Cousin Vinny"

You have played many different roles; your filmography is impressive on IMDb.  You’ve played a judge, lawyer, detective, mother, police chief, and your most recent role of Darlene on the hit show “Greenleaf”. Do you have a favorite role?

I absolutely love Darlene. There are sides of myself I rarely get to use in my acting. She’s motherly, business, sassy, protective, and playful. Yeah, I love “me” in her.

Roxzane with cast members of "Star"

Which role was the hardest to prepare for?

My role ins “Mosaic” as Ruth Anderson. There is coldness, hardness, and cruelness about the way she loves that I had to find.  I understand why it was there, but it was so different from the way I operate I had to go someplace unfamiliar. But it was so much fun. I recently had to go there again in an online miniseries called “Thick Skin” check it out.

What have you enjoyed about being in the cast of “Greenleaf”?

Working on a top-notch show with highly professional, generous and kind seasoned actors? What’s not to enjoy? I appreciate every bit of it.

 Do you have a favorite character or two on the show?

Or 3 or 4 or? I love these people. If I must:
Lady Mae you don’t play with, but to see her vulnerable side peak out is magic. (And to know Lynn Whitfield is the loveliest person ever makes it more so).
Grace without question always keeps me guessing which side of her we will see; I love that because that’s all of us. Dealing with our Faith walk in this crazy world sure ain't easy.
 Jacob, I love seeing him…. break free I guess. In the beginning, he seemed so lost and now I see all this manliness, this strength, it’s very cool.  

Roxzane with Lynn Whitfield who plays Lady Mae on "Greenleaf"

Roxzane as Darlene with Merle Dandridge who plays Grace on "Greenleaf"

For those who are not actors but who want to become one, what’s the process to book a role? How do you hear about parts?

Now that’s the question of the year. For non-actors:
 How do you become a Doctor…a Lawyer…? A CPA? A Realtor, a Restaurant Manager?
My point, there is nothing about this business that is quick and easy. I know it looks like it sometimes with all the reality show stars. That is not real acting. Real acting is a true craft that you need to study, work hard and apply yourself to just be decent and even more so if you want to be really good. If starting later in life (like me), you have the small advantage of life experience you can use, but you still need to learn your craft. And it is not a speed learning craft. (Just my opinion).
For actors without an agent looking for roles: Actors Access, Facebook, 800casting, Casting Network. Going to film festivals and making contacts especially in this market because there are so many new filmmakers doing their own thing. The next Tyler Perry or Donald Glover is right here in our mist.

 For you, what are some of the joys of acting?

Doing the work to find you in a character and seeing it come to life (even with auditions you may never get to perform anywhere else). Then having someone else see it and recognize it as good work, that’s nice. Plus, it’s fun, like being a kid and getting the first bike that you can’t ride. You fall, but you are so excited to learn how to ride.

Can you tell me about the challenges of acting and how you learn to face them?

Finding the money to do all the things needed to advance your career. Classes, headshots, demo reels, casting websites, maintaining hair, nails etc. Not to mention paying your everyday bills. And if you have a day job the challenge is being able to do the auditions and jobs and not lose said job.
I did a lot of bartering for classes, seasonal jobs, catering jobs and any paying acting gigs no matter how small. I had a good support system (not financial, emotional) that encouraged me.

What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing acting as a career?

Never stop learning, growing, and exploring in your craft. Don’t let the grind keep you from having fun in the process. It can get overwhelming if you let it.

 Tell me three fun facts about you.

I love...love..love being a Neene (grandmother, but don’t call me that).
I can be really silly (ask anyone who’s seen me do “the Wizard of Oz”).
You pronounce my name “Rock zOn” not “rocks Ann”. I didn’t name me, and my mom was adamant about saying it correctly, so I am too. Ask anyone who knows me.

I share motivational and inspiring quotes with my readers, can you share one with me that motivates you?

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.

 Who are your biggest supporters?

My whole family and my ex-husband (who expects to get one of the two Academy Award guest tickets when I’m nominated, lol); he did spend a lot of years making sure the bills were paid while I used my money for my career.

 If there was one thing that you could change in the world,
what would that be?

The fact that racism is still so prevalent and accepted in this day and age. I hate that my grandbabies will have to endure it.

 As well as acting, you’ve also have directed as well. Do you enjoy directing and are you planning on directing in the near future?

I do enjoy it, and if the opportunity comes up I might. But my focus currently is in front of the camera. Directing is no joke,  and I don’t feel like I’m good enough to do both at the same time. Maybe in a few years.

Roxzane directing.

Any actor or director you would love to work with?

Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Matthew McConaughey, Don Cheadle ...Way too many to name.
Also, Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes again to many to name

In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?

What makes a beautiful Person is: Kindness, compassion and a heart that can love (even the unlovely) and is able to forgive. We all need that and should strive to be that which isn't easy.

Roxzane with Richard Roundtree

Follow Roxzane on social media:

Twitter:  Roxzane

Instagram: Roxzane Mims

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